The image on the left would be amusing if it wasn’t so indicative of the way people mis-interpret and mis-apply the Holy Scriptures.
While we grant that such people are usually well-meaning, such careless misapplications of Bible verses can actually be quite harmful to the people of God in that it prevents them from hearing the voice of their Good Shepherd accurately.
We considered some of the most commonly misapplied verses in our modern day during our Family Instruction Time during the months of July and August 2013 and we plan to return to this study sometime in the near future.
Misuse – In a culture which avoids accountability and responsibility for personal actions, this verse is used by believers and unbelievers alike as “a shield” against criticism.
Context – The pharisees were quick to see the shortcomings of others, but were blind to their own sins and unwilling to hold themselves accountable. (Matthew 23:23-25)
Interpretation – The intended lesson of this passage is twofold: (1) Stop judging others in a hypocritical fashion, and (2) get the sin out of your own life.
1. Censoriousness in our attitudes or speech concerning others is hypocrisy.
2. The “measuring stick” that we hold up against others will be used against us by God himself.
3. Before attempting to help others address their sins, we must first deal with our own (Galatians 6:1-2).
Misuse – With so many “prosperity preachers” tickling the ears of those who feel entitled to God’s here-and-now blessing, this has become the favorite “life verse” of many.
Context – Jeremiah prophesied seventy years of exile, Hananiah said that it would only last two years, the people were confused, and God vindicates Jeremiah.
Interpretation – Now stricken by the thought of a seventy-year coming chastisement, God comforts Judah with a promise of future peace and prosperity back home in Zion.
1. False prophesies are as common today as they were in Jeremiah’s day (and the people love to have it so).
2. Sometimes God’s sweetest promises are “corporate” rather than “individual” in their scope.
3. Our hope as God’s people is oftentimes more of a future expectation than a present experience.
Misuse – Though well-meaning, many Christians quote this verse to affirm that small groups, prayer meetings, etc., are special because God is “specially” there.
Context – Jesus has been discussing the importance of addressing interpersonal sin and conflict. He just told the disciples what steps to take to restore an offender.
Interpretation – If such a conflict makes it to the church court, Christ is personally there sitting as Judge. Therefore, the decisions/censures there rendered are HIS.
1. God is omnipresent and therefore always with his people (Psalm 139:7-8, Matthew 18:20, Hebrews 13:5).
2. An active ministry of reconciliation is an essential mark of the true church.
3. The pronouncements of church censures are a dreadfully serious matter.
Misuse – Many pray with the misconception that ending a prayer with this specific formula gives it an “extra boost” so there is an “increased chance” of it being answered.
Context – At the last supper, Jesus announced the dramatic change in kingdom dynamics that would occur after he ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit.
Interpretation – While Jesus confirmed his identity through many physical miracles, the ministry of the Apostles would be confirmed through even greater spiritual miracles.
1. Pentecostal misuse is proven by the paucity of genuine miracles accomplished through their prayers.
2. Praying in Jesus’ name mostly involves acknowledging the spirit-filled-church dispensation in which we live.
3. Praying in Jesus’ name is to pray according to his will: The Father glorified in the Son through the Spirit.
Misuse – Many offer this verse as a word of comfort to others; but only as if God were a cosmic chess master: “God will somehow manage to bring some good out of this…”
Context – Paul has just put the saint’s present sufferings into an eternal perspective; noting that the former will pale in comparison to the latter (vs. 18).
Interpretation – While all created things are presently “groaning”, God has an eternal purpose and is presently orchestrating all things to advance his kingdom purposes.
1. This promise is intended only for believers (i.e., those who love God, trust in Christ, and are indwelt by his Spirit).
2. The ultimate “good” in view here is the eternal purpose of God in Christ to redeem and glorify his elect.
3. The personal “good” that is being worked out through earthly adversity is our sanctification (vs. 29).
Misuse – Patriotic Christians oftentimes use this verse in prayer meetings as if it spelled out the steps which will lead to a spiritual revival in America.
Context – The Chronicles were written for the post-exilic Israelites to help them understand their national history and to trust in God for their future restoration.
Interpretation – These verses explain Israel’s experience according to its covenant stipulations (Deut. 11:17, 28:21,42) and Solomon’s prophesy/prayer (2 Chron. 6:14-42).
1. The nation of Israel was unique. No other earthly nation should be referred to as “God’s People” (Psalm 147:19-20).
2. Let us not “spiritualize” verses like this which promise physically-and-historically realized blessings.
3. We should pray for things national (1 Tim. 2:1-4), but our “land” is far better (Hebrews 11:16, Phil. 3:20).
This study is based on the book “The Most Misused Verses in the Bible” by Eric. J. Bargerhuff and these outlines of the book’s content are here published with his permission.